The Spice of Life
“We believe that our grandparents and parents bestowed a family legacy to us that is even greater than ourselves…our plan is to leave this.
Family business for future Leal generations to come.”
Jesse and Irma Leal began a small business in Muleshoe, Texas back in 1957 that gave root to a West Texas and New Mexico tradition that is known far and wide. With the advent of Leal's Tortilla Factory and the subsequent Leal's Mexican Restaurant, the residents of the High Plains were introduced to the unique flavors and outstanding quality of the traditional Mexican food that Jesse and Irma carefully prepared.
How It All Began
Jesse and Irma married on November 24, 1955 in Mercedes, Texas. They moved to Muleshoe and Jesse resumed work as a time keeper at a produce company while Irma began working part-time at Anthony's Department Store. They soon began to see the need for traditional Mexican food, especially for the taste preferences of the "braceros" that had been hired from the Texas Valley area to do contract work on the local farms.
The couple began to dream of owning a restaurant featuring traditional Mexican dishes. During the “great depression”, Irma had learned the art of making fresh quality tortillas in her father’s factory, “El Arco Iris”. She built on this expertise by perfecting her mother's homemade recipes for great tasting Mexican food. To make their dream a reality, the couple opened a small tortilla factory on the outskirts of Muleshoe. Irma also cooked traditional dishes like Huevos Rancheros, Mexican Barbacoa, Menudo, and Tamales. On May 4, 1957 at approximately 9 a.m. the couple started making history when the first tortilla rolled off the machine.
In 1959, they moved the Tortilla Factory to a bigger location and the couple began to envision a full-fledged restaurant. "El Nuevo Leal's Restaurant" opened its doors in 1968 in a café-style setting on West American Boulevard in Muleshoe. At first, the menu was small, but it featured all of the original dishes that have become popular over the years. Customers also began ordering their own combinations and soon the menu included dishes named after the customers who created them.
A Family Tradition
When Jesse and Irma opened "El Nuevo Leal's", their son Hector was a little over a year old. Daughter Alma was born in 1958, Victor in 1962, Laura in 1964, Sergio in 1968, and Abel in 1971. The children were literally "raised in the restaurant business" and worked alongside their parents throughout the years.
All of the children are still involved in the family business. Alma and her husband Tony own and operate the restaurant in Henrietta, Texas, which opened in 2005. Jesse and Irma’s granddaughter, Heather, along with her husband Jeremy, owns and operates the Leal’s Mexican Restaurant in Plainview, Texas. Laura owns the Leal's in Clovis, New Mexico and has been staying busy ever since she opened the doors in 1988. She opened her second location in August 2004. Victor owns the "original" restaurant in Muleshoe, Texas and opened a location in Amarillo with his wife, Debbie. Sergio and his wife Tracie own and operate the Tortilla Factory, which supplies corn and flour tortillas to Leal’s Restaurants as well as other food service suppliers. Abel and his wife Marcie have expanded the Leal tradition to include a retail salsa and tortilla chip business that they operate in Dallas.